Meet Laverne. She’s a nine year old Chihuahua, and she is now ours. Yes, my horizons have expanded beyond Labradors despite every expectation of my own or, for that matter, that of anyone I know.
I am well known to be a dog person, and have been all my life, moving from the Collie of my childhood (Lad) to my first Labrador (Chaos), born from my friend’s dog and not quite the right color for a Lab. My next Labrador, Samba, was well-bred and gentle, and by then I knew that if you are to be a dog breeder, you must be very responsible to improve the breed as much as possible. Samba was the perfect mother, and I kept her daughter Cuica, and then Cuica’s granddaughter Clave. Though I really wanted to get a puppy when Clave was 10, because of my chronic back disability, I couldn’t do all the bending and picking up that comes with a puppy, so it didn’t happen. After Clave died, we turned to Rescue, and we adopted our next Labrador, our chocolate, Grace.
Cats came into my life when our daughter was 2. We adopted 2 Abyssinian sisters, Penny and Poppy. Our daughter, Clave, and the 2 cats were all the same age. Penny died some years ago, but Poppy is going strong and is about to turn 16. Two years ago our daughter asked for a kitten for her upcoming birthday, so Mimsy came into our home. So I am a dog and cat person.
However, I have never been a Chihuahua person. I couldn’t even imagine it. So how does a “big dog” person end up with a Chihuahua?
Understanding this transition requires knowing something about our daughter, like Poppy, almost 16 years old. She is passionate about animals, all of them. She believes with all her heart in animal Rescue. As part of her high school, she has been working as an intern at the local animal shelter, and this summer, as I wrote previously in The Summer of Impending Loss, has fostered a kitten (so far not adopted). At the shelter, she was attracted to a small dog in the shelter with her sister. The two Chihuahuas were named by the shelter “Laverne” and “Shirley”, after the TV show. Now, Laverne was being fostered and our daughter asked if we could adopt her. She presented us with a careful and well-written set of arguments why this would be good for her and for our family. We agreed to meet the dog. She was brought over to our house by her foster, who turned out to be an old friend of mine, and someone our daughter knows from the shelter. We were unexpectedly charmed by this very tiny dog who has her own dignity and is calm and affectionate, and not at all yappy.
So that is how we are now a family with a Chihuahua. I feel as though my acceptance muscles have been stretched wider than her 5 lb. frame accounts for. My friend who fostered her told me that she adopts dogs from the shelter that would have difficulty finding homes because they are old or blind or both. I admire my friend and my daughter for their open hearts, their love of animals and willingness to take them into their (our!) homes, and the hard work that this entails.
In thinking about the qualities of heroes, I wonder about love. We are impelled to many acts of courage and selflessness by love. Animal Rescue is driven by love, but it takes many other qualities to rescue and care for animals. It requires that we set our own needs aside to care for the needs of others who are different from ourselves, that we find the special inner vision which allows us to see each life as significant, and most of all, reverence for and fostering of life itself.